The absurdity of the lawyers' rhetoric to one side, the element the jury in the Urewera
The 11 jurors resumed their deliberations this morning at the High Court at Auckland.
Justice Rodney Hansen told them that he had received two questions from them.
One of them expressed they were "some difficulty'' with the organised criminal group charge and asked whether they could move on to the firearms charges.
They retired shortly before midday on Thursday but did not resume on Friday after one of the jurors injured herself at home.
Justice Hansen told the jurors they could consider the charges in any order that they liked.
He said working through the other counts may help them to resolve any issues they had in relation to count one, the organised criminal group charge.
The jurors have photo booklets and more than 1300 pages of transcript of evidence to draw on during their deliberations.
They have also been told that they can review footage captured by covert police cameras in the Urewera bush.
Now if the jury focus on the firearms aspects first and decide that they are guilty on those counts it makes it a lot easier for them to think that the group must be, automatically, a criminal one. Not criminal because the training and exercises are in itself a criminal offence (which is what the Crown are trying to say) but because the criminality comes from the possession of firearms. That threshold is far too low, but that is the risk. Conversely if the jury finds no criminality with the firearms side then it makes it very likely - I would think - that the criminal group charge would fail as a consequence.
At the moment it is still wide open, with a possibility looming that there may be a hung jury on the criminal group charge. But at this stage, with all the botched police work and prosecution antics having eroded the strength of the original charges, any conviction at all on anything - no matter how small - would be welcomed by the Crown. The most of a win the government can salvage in these circumstances would be a Pyrrhic victory - the offences are relatively minor, the cost to the NZ Police of their "Operation 8" and the Crown prosecution in the millions.
How long does the jury need? They've been deliberating a couple of days and have had the whole weekend to think about it. Is this time span just what happens when a straight forward matter is deluged by the prosecution in reams of evidence?
As for the defence, they have done as well behind the scenes in the pre-trial process and in the media as they have done in the trial - pretty good considering the resources of the government.
None of them gave evidence in person at the trial. They didn't have to and they didn't. To some people exercising a right to silence is proof of some guilt - it isn't. Having taken the stand in my own defence in a sedition trial I know only too well that it is perilous and can be quite counter-productive if the actions of the defendant cannot be explained without jeopardising other people or things a defendant wishes to protect. It isn't hard to twist things to make people look unreliable in such a situation. They were right not to go into the witness box.